Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Special Issue: Nuclear Energy in the Middle East

For immediate release: January 15, 2016

Bulletin Media Contact: Janice Sinclaire, [email protected]

CHICAGOJanuary 15, 2016 – The nuclear agreement that Iran and six major world powers signed in 2015 has focused attention on Middle Eastern nuclear politics. But as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Executive Editor and Publisher, Rachel Bronson, observes, that deal is only part of an unfolding nuclear story.

Bronson’s article, “Power shift in the Middle East,” is part of the Bulletin’s latest subscription journal, a special issue that examines nuclear energy in the Middle East and the geopolitical structures that are changing because of it. As country after country in the region embarks upon plans to build nuclear reactors, the burgeoning nuclear power boom is greatly complicated by the challenges of keeping civilian nuclear power protected from terrorists and delinked from nuclear weapons programs.

The boom is also complicating matters for NATO and the United States, as the vacuum left by dwindling nuclear energy resources in the US has created a void that Russia, with its teetering economy, is only too happy to fill through attractive financing and “build, own, and operate” (BOO) deals. Physicist M.V. Ramana looks at “The scramble to sell a nuclear Middle East” as China, France, South Korea, and to a lesser extent the US, all vie with Russia to sell reactors costing upward of $4 billion apiece to oil-rich nations.

The realization that oil-rich, water-poor countries in the Middle East are vigorously pursuing nuclear power tends to raise two immediate questions: Why don't they just burn their oil? And, How will increasingly drought-stricken countries come up with the water to cool nuclear reactors when they do exist? Amy Myers Jaffe, Jim Krane, and Jareer Elass look at the economics of selling oil vs. burning it for electricity and/or desalination, and Ori Rabinowitz examines how the energy crisis in the Middle East is really a water crisis that is both driving the push toward nuclear energy and complicating its implementation.

Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, warned earlier this year that a nuclear deal with Iran might fuel a regional arms race. Now that a deal is in place and Iran is moving forward with plans for civilian uranium enrichment, will other countries in the Middle East scramble to get similar enrichment deals? Ali Ahmad and Ryan Snyder look at the proliferation threat now that Iran and the P5+1 have reached an agreement, and Dan Drollette interviews Prince Turki al-Faisal to discuss the likelihood that Saudi Arabia will actually build the number of nuclear power plants it claims to be planning, and whether that country may seek nuclear weapons, either by buying them from Pakistan or through an indigenous development program.

And Bulletin Editor John Mecklin, interviews Hamad Alkaabi, United Arab Emirates envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Alkaabi describes his country’s views on the Iran nuclear deal and whether it could cause the UAE to reconsider its precedent-setting nuclear agreement with the US, as well as a host of other issues connected to the country’s creation of a nuclear power sector.

The Global Forum in this issue features an extended discussion over climate change and whether technological innovation is the silver bullet that will enable countries to meet their targets under the Paris climate deal negotiated in December. The new Nuclear Notebook by Hans Kristensen and Robert S. Norris take a magnifying glass to recently declassified documents relating to US nuclear weapons at sea during the Cold War.

The January/February subscription journal is the inaugural issue in our new partnership with Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. This issue’s free-access article is the interview with Prince Prince Turki al-Faisal; the Bulletin’s Nuclear Notebook is always free.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists engages science leaders, policy makers, and the interested public on topics of nuclear weapons and disarmament, climate change, growing energy demands, and emerging technologies. We do this through our award-winning journal, iconic Doomsday Clock, public access website, and regular set of convenings.  With smart, vigorous prose, multimedia presentations, and information graphics, the Bulletin puts issues and events into context and provides fact-based debates and assessments. For 70 years, the Bulletin has bridged the technology divide between scientific research, foreign policy, and public engagement.

 Media Contact: Janice Sinclaire, [email protected]

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